Cyberattack causes campus-wide network outage

January 31, 2020

The recent campus-wide network was caused by a cyberattack, Chief Information Officer Jim La Creta wrote to the Brandeis community 12 hours after the attack began. The Brandeis community was officially notified of the outage just after 4 p.m., even though Information Technology Services (ITS) began noticing issues at 12 p.m. 

The first email explained that the main issue with the network was the campus firewall. “A firewall is the underlying technical backbone of the campus network that manages data or internet traffic,” according to the email. 

Another email sent by La Creta at 9 p.m. confirmed that all Information Technology (IT) resources had been restored to the university. “We identified the source of the outage as an ‘attack’ that flooded and prevented data to flow to and from the campus network.” The email added that affected systems on campus included “logging into the network, utilizing wireless, Latte, Library systems and other key campus systems.” 

Andrea Bolduc ’21 told The Brandeis Hoot that the outage did not inconvenience her too much in completing her work, but found “it was tough to receive communications about the WiFi via email since I couldn’t access Gmail.”

The cyberattack was later specified to be a denial-of-service attack on a single machine on campus, wrote La Creta, Chief Information Security Officer David Albrecht and Associate Director of Change Management and Strategic Communications Christine Jacinto, in a statement to The Brandeis Hoot. 

A denial-of-service attack “is a cyberattack where there is an attempt to overload the target… with superfluous requests for information,” Jacinto wrote in an email to The Hoot. “As a result, the network was overloaded causing the network to crash and blocking access to various campus IT services and systems.”

The statement added that multiple people were brought onto campus to help resolve the issue, including the firewall vendor, to help identify the source of the attack. Jacinto did not provide specifics on the campus firewall vendor due to “security reasons.” 

ITS is currently conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the attack and said in their statement that the formal investigation will take a few weeks to complete. 

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